Peretz Markish

Translator’s Note on Peretz Markish’s Work:

Peretz Markish was a prominent Yiddish writer who was executed by Stalin on August 12, 1952, a date that has come to be known as “the night of the murdered poets.” His work is among the most acclaimed Yiddish poetry that has come out of Russia in the early to mid-twentieth century.  LW Markish’s greatest poetic accomplishment was his epic poem, Di Kupe (The Heap), which describes Jewish suffering through a metaphorical heap of corpses in a marketplace. This selection is an excerpt.


Rose Waldman (translator) is an MFA candidate and a writing instructor at Columbia University. Her work has appeared in Pakn Treger, The MacGuffin, Ami Magazine, Meorot, and elsewhere. Her translation of a I. L. Peretz story from Yiddish is forthcoming from Back Pages Books.


The Heap (15)

Night unbuttons her black mouth
Its teeth dripping with stars
Board, lonely ones, and sail
The silver ship of the new moon

Who has no rest in his bed
Who has no cure in the night-hour
Board, naked ones, without coffins
The silver ship of the new moon

Like the ark on Ararat
The new moon sits on the heap
They sleep.  Only the crow does not rest
She busies herself in the rotting trash:

“Enter, residents of mourning
The skin of sunset lies slaughtered
We the crows don’t want to sail
The silver ship of the new moon

Pack the new moon with victuals
Lay a pair of carcasses onto it.”
And the silent crows wander like clouds
On the silver ship of the new moon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *